Stopping by Woods

(Thanks to Tammy B’s 10min10day inspiration; it’s no accident.)

It’s salt I taste, definitely, and it has seeped softly into my mouth through the meeting of my lips. The tracks of tears I barely register. Beauty has that effect.

The birch stands amid a cluster, not too tall. I have pulled off the road on my way up the mountain pass in late autumn. Oregon offers just what these trees need: moisture, shade, space, the perfect medium. Now the leaves, deciduous and dropping their gold on the ground below, lift and fall with a gentle breeze. Sunlight is muted; the road remains empty—but for me.

It has rained earlier, the remnants drip from the serrated edges of the triangular leaves. The sound is swallowed by the soil. So the flash of wing high in the branches strikes me, drawing my eyes upward along the papery trunk. Some bark, beginning to peel, curls against the surface.

But the red wing, the upright crimson perched on a branch, holds sway. I cannot look away. Attention-getting red without artifice here; I happened along at just the right time.

I have stopped only to stretch my legs, for my trip is a long one, now lightened by this moment, this serendipitous pause. I will let tear traces linger.